Opening Up in Lockdown – Day 2 – What are you seeing?

Have you ever decided on a new car and then started to see the same model everywhere? Or bought a new item of clothing and suddenly everyone’s wearing it?! It’s not a coincidence, nor is it some secret law of attraction. It’s a part of our brains which we can all make use of to work to our advantage. I’ve been trying to trust mine a bit more to highlight the things I can do to achieve my goals, whether or not I believe I can at any given time.

What might you look to achieve if you could prepare yourself to see all the opportunities available to you?

Further reading:

After talking about my anxiety a bit with someone I work with they recommended I join the mailing list for The School of Life. I’ve never had a recommended mailing list before so I subscribed. A few days later a beautifully written and thought provoking email dropped into my inbox with an entry from their sister site – The Book of Life.

Calming and honest descriptions of everyday life, hope, struggles, relationships. You can follow this link to see everything but I’d recommend subscribing. The emails sometimes contain the odd ad for some really lovely books and games but for the most part it’s a fascinating take on life and I would recommend it for those who like to ponder a little deeper.

Here’s a bit more reading on the Reticular Activating System and why it’s so important for us all!

The Chimp Paradox is a book by Steve Peters. This is a very simplified video explaining his concept but illustrates the idea well. If you find yourself reacting to situations from an instinctive, fight or flight mode, then your inner chimp might be governing the way you operate and this might be useful for you.

Time to Change is a Social Movement attempting to remove the stigma and end mental health discrimination. There’s loads of stories and personal accounts on the website and information about how you can get involved!

The theme of Mental Health Awareness Week this year is Kindness. When you look for ways to do something kind for others, you’ve no idea how far the ripples might travel and the benefits on your own well-being! (Yes, this is a Thai Life Insurance video but it’s great honestly!)

Most of the stuff I’ve found online about Appreciative Enquiryis in relation to organisations but I honestly feel we should all be using it when reviewing our own progress and achievements.

It focuses on the good we are doing while simultaneously capitalising on it for future action rather than picking apart or berating ourselves when something has gone wrong – What have you done well recently and how could you do more of that?

CORONAVIRUS ANXIETY WORKBOOK! Sorry for shouting but if you’re struggling with everything that’s going on right now then The Wellness Society have put together this brilliant free little workbook with explanations around what you’re experiencing as well as tools for helping you through. Good luck!

It’s worth stating at this point that I do recognise my privilege. The fact I’m a white male in the UK and all which that affords me is not lost on me. In the 70’s, Imposter syndrome was originally thought to only affect women. It’s since been shown to affect everyone but women and minority groups in particular are susceptible to it.

Recent research last year through Natwest’s ‘Own Your Imposter’ campaign showed 60% of women who have considered starting a business did not due to lack of confidence or imposter syndrome. This is no doubt part of the reason only one-fifth of UK businesses are started by women.

We opened with this video at an International Women’s Week event in February and I think it’s a reminder to us all that stereotypes and bias are formed in our early years. We MUST remind all children they are capable regardless of gender!

Today has been about seeking out what drives you. What connects you to that state of flow you get into when your passion meets your creativity and you excel. Once you’ve got that in mind then start to think, write and talk about it as much as you can. Your Reticular Activating System will help highlight the opportunities and then it’s up to you to grab them – You’ve got this!

Opening Up in Lockdown – Day 1 – What are you saying?

Social media has given us SO much to be thankful for during this lock down, but I am conscious it is never the full story. It’s more important than ever that we’re aware and open about our mental health and allow space for the people we care about to be honest about theirs.

Seen as it’s #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek I’m going to try and take off the mask and talk a bit about what’s actually going on with me in a bid to remind people it’s OK, in fact it’s vital to talk and keep working on ourselves regardless of what we’re going through. FEAR NOT, this will not be upsetting, it’s about working on who we are and how we can grow even when our brains might be working against us. More to follow…

It was also International Coaching week last week and I’ve spent the last 18 months training to be a coach. Despite having a fairly major wobble throughout that time it has enabled me to keep identifying and progressing on my goals. It’s also given me some light-bulb moments to shine a light on my own mental health journey too.

Along with a video each lunchtime for the next 7 days I’ll be posting articles, videos, resources and contacts relevant to each video which might be of interest or help you with your journey as they’ve helped me with mine.  While this is no doubt the most self-indulgent thing I’ve done to date, I’m hoping that talking about my journey might encourage you to talk about yours.

Welcome to Opening Up in Lockdown – Day One! I’ve spent a fairly large part of my life hanging onto a role I’ve written for myself. It’s something I’m sure we all do to some extent. It’s only been with a spell of anxiety and trying to embrace a growth mindset that I’ve really started to come to terms with just how much playing this role takes it out of me and what I might do to start working on it.

The more I talk to people about where I’m at the more I hear from others their stories and see their strength. It’s never a weakness to accept our vulnerabilities. Today is about the importance of articulating. Getting what may be bouncing around in our heads formulated into full and proper words. So that we may confront it, disagree with it or use it to our advantage. What is going on and what do you want to achieve?

Further reading:

The ‘Minds At Work’ website is a great set of resources for managing anxiety and generally coping with the current crisis as well as a diary of online events to help plan your days if you’re struggling!

Have a look on the NHS Website to help work out what you’re going through – While it might seem an obvious link – it took me a long time to accept the feelings I’ve been having and even longer to google them. Reading up and realising that what you’re going through has a name, that there’s research and treatment for it can genuinely help, not only to come to terms with reality but also to start figuring out what’s the next step to working on it.

“I think everybody should talk to everybody”. Can you remember when you were a child and could just say what you wanted to people?! No me neither, but still I love this video as it reminds me of the simplicity of conversation to connect us. On some level I think most of us just want to connect and be heard.

Got something serious going on and not sure where to turn? The Samaritans have been going 70 years and answer a call every 6 seconds. They are waiting for your call so don’t wait, call 116 123.

Today has been about talking. By being honest about what is going on or what you want, you make it real. In doing so you begin to build your tribe and the people who can share experience, hold you accountable and remind you that you’re not on this journey alone!

What’s the time?

Happy leap day! A leap day feels to me a bit like a magnified version of when the clocks go back and we get the sense we’ve gained an hour. Although I suppose if you’re a salary paid worker, this is one of those years where you could argue you have to work an extra day for the same money! Seeing as we are leaping through time today though, it seemed like a good time to talk about the subject. We all live by it and (try to) stick to it. It helps us make sense of the world and we have probably been measuring it in some way since we became conscious beings.


Most of us take it all for granted but we know our watches and clocks use seconds, minutes and hours as convenient means of dividing up the time it takes for our beautiful planet to spin round once and our calendar is just a convenient way to divide up the time it takes for us to spin round our sun. For those that didn’t catch it in school, a leap year happens because it actually only takes us 364.24 days to orbit the sun and so clearly if we just carried on regardless without this extra day every 4 years (like we used to until a couple of thousand years ago), then after a hundred years we would be 24 days out and it would totally mess with our seasons. What they didn’t explain in school though, is that adding a day every 4 years is around 0.01 days too much, so again, if we carried on regardless in 128 years we would be almost a day out again! So on every 100th year we skip the leap day in Feb. Sorted? Nope, skipping this leap day every 100 years is again, not quite precise so then every 400 years we still have that usually skipped leap year to correct our overcompensation and have the leap year as normal. Get it? No, me neither but it puts into perspective that our seemingly well organised measurements of time are actually subject to the much less organised movement of the earth.


We have leap seconds too! The earth’s spin is gradually slowing down so a day was only 23 hours back in dinosaur times. It only actually lasted an exact 24 hours in 1820. Since then a day’s length has increased by about 2.5 milliseconds. That may not sound like much but it was enough for scientists to change the definition of a second in 1967. It went from being determined by a division of the length of a day to actually being based on the measurements of transitions in atoms of caesium. Such atomic clocks are so much more accurate that we have to have leap seconds added every now and again in order to keep all our super accurate technology in line with the ‘less accurate’ earth!


This all goes to show how we make the rules for our measurements of time, which is why I find leap years and seconds a nice reminder that we aren’t slaves to our time pieces, even if we might feel it sometimes. They work for us, they help us understand and organise our lives around the hours of sun and the seasons we will experience, our journey through the solar system, they are the denominations of currency we use whilst deciding how to spend our time. But seeing as our calendar only goes back 2016 years, when are we really? When did we start to measure and what has measuring in such a way done to us? Do we really know the time?


Some forms of calendars can be traced back to Mesolithic times, and it’s probably no coincidence that this was at the same time we started getting good at farming which of course requires a good handle on seasonal changes. Some of these calendars used large structures such as this one in Scotland dating back 10,000 years. Often sightings of the new moon were used to determine the start of a monthly period.

It was the Ancient Egyptians who first appear to have divided the day into 2 equal 12 hour parts, thus forming the beginnings of the system we use today. They used the sun to track this and measure it. Just as sun dials were used to help tell the time of day. Even though sundials and other such time pieces are among the oldest human inventions, it only goes back to around 1300 where we actually had accurate engineering to properly measure time in smaller denominations and start to truly organise our timelines.

Fast forward less than 800 years and we are literally locked to them for convenience and organisation, but what about before all that? Civilisation as we know it has been around something like 6000 years and before that modern humans maybe 200,000 years plus. Early humans maybe more than 2 million years. Even our ancestors before that were experiencing time, they just weren’t able to measure it like us, but it will no doubt have had an effect on them.

Our sleep patterns might be somewhat affected by our alarm clocks or work patterns but the only clock which is truly in time with us, is our internal, circadian clock. Millions of years seeing the sun set and the lack of light triggering glands sending hormones to our brains, shutting things down and putting us into the next part of our daily cycle. Altering our inner rhythm to one which lets us drift off to sleep. Over all that time, it’s fair to say that passage of time from night to day has set our circadian clocks to a time perfect for our planet.

But what about other planets? Take Mercury for example, a year there lasts 88 earth days but their days last 176 of ours. So their day is twice as long as their year! Imagine what their calendars and watches would look like and how intelligent life there might have developed sleeping patterns and perceptions of time.


While on the subject of our perception of time, we have to consider time dilation. One of the coolest things in the universe! The fact that the speed in which time passes is different depending on where you are in the universe or how fast you are travelling. Not a trick of the mind or a malfunction of clocks at such speeds, just the way time really works. For so long we could only consider how time works here on earth and so had to assume that it just went along in it’s uniform linear fashion out into the universe, only when we went out there exploring did we realise time is inextricably linked to the universe and to the matter within it, it really is the fourth dimension! Everything with mass has a gravitational pull and bodies with huge mass (insert ‘your mum’ joke here) can have such a gravitational pull that it affects the spacetime around it. Take astronauts on the international space station for example, they are further away from the centre of earth and so are affected a tiny bit less by it’s gravitational pull than the rest of us and so time runs faster.

It also holds true though, that the higher the velocity you travel at, the slower time would be for you, if you were able to travel at 80 percent the speed of light then time would slow down to a third of what it is on earth. For our astronauts, because earth’s gravitational pull is so weak, an astronaut’s velocity ends up being the defining factor. 6 months on the ISS and astronauts actually age 0.007 seconds less than those on the ground. This type of phenomena is proven constantly by the fact gps satellites flying around our planet at 14000 km per second have to adjust their clocks by a few milliseconds a day in order to remain in time with our super accurate atomic clocks.

The time travel record holder is Russian Cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev who has spent so long in space that he has gained 0.02 seconds on the rest of the world. Ok, so not a great deal at the speeds and distances we can currently travel, but it has pretty amazing implications when we think what that could mean in the future when we can travel at higher velocities or get closer to black holes and their immense mass.


The insane gravity created by all the mass collapsed into a black hole prevents even light escaping it’s surface, so we can safely say that it should also bend spacetime to a point that time will slow down significantly for you the closer to it you get to it, we’ve all seen Interstellar right? It is theorised that somewhere within the black hole is a singularity where this bending of spacetime is infinite. It has to be said this is all when comparing time to an observer who is not with you near the black hole. For you, travelling towards a black hole, time would feel normal to you and your watch would still tick with the man made length of seconds it is programmed to, it’s just that a thousand years could have passed back on earth by the time it reaches tock.. No wonder black holes are among the most fascinating but mystifying things in our universe.


So it appears that time is almost completely subjective. As is how we perceive it. How often do you feel like the last year of your life has gone by so fast? If you think about it, when you are 2 years old, a year is half your entire experience of the universe. But at 50, one year will only feel like a 50th of your experience, so it stands to reason that our units of time are likely to feel like they are speeding by faster the more of them we live through.

If our sleep / wake cycle is something we have evolved to do at times that fit round our planets rotation and our measurements of time are just things we have chosen to help organise ourselves around our orbit, and that time goes by differently depending on where you are in the universe or how fast you’re travelling, then can we agree that the way we perceive and take time for granted here on earth is pretty arbitrary when considering what it actually is and how it affects the universe as a whole?

If we do agree on that, then might there be other things we misinterpret in our perceptions? What else does our limited consciousness take for granted? How about the flow of time? Are we sure that it is only forward, or is that perhaps all our minds can comprehend? Ok, so maybe it’s too much of a stretch to think we could physically go back and Einstein reckons we could never actually go forward, as the closer we get to the speed of light the more our mass would increase, so we could never reach a destination faster than it would take light to reach it. But like some of the things I mentioned in my first blog, some processes in our universe, like the apparent choices made by entangled particles upon being measured, don’t follow the rules we thought existed. We can already look back in time whenever we look through a telescope. Some of the light scientists have captured, originated shortly after the big bang way before the earth had even started forming. We know that, light travels at around 670,000,000 mph and is supposed to be an absolute maximum that anything can travel. But we also know that it travels at the same speed to all who observe it regardless of the speed they are travelling at. This means that if we were chasing after a beam of light at say 668 million mph, the light would still appear to be beaming away from us at the speed of light. Weird right? Prof Cox tries to explain something similar in the following video.

I will go into light a bit more in the future but I mention it now because it’s behaviour is sounding more and more like time when we look at it in this way. Something which we once believed to be a constant but we now see is very much subjective.

What if one day we could harness one of these strange phenomena like time dilation or the relative speed of light, and use it to view the past or perhaps echoes from the future. I’m not saying I believe that everything is predetermined or that there even is a future for us to view as complex individual human beings with conscious thought and free will, instead consider this more of a thought experiment. Does the very fact we have conscious thought and the ability to consider these things mean that we have developed brains which can only view the passage of the universe in this linear way. Time and space clearly don’t always follow the rules our brains take for granted. Perhaps there are even additional dimensions out there, some respected scientists including Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Brian Cox believe in a multiverse for example. Maybe if we were able to see additional dimensions or connect with such universes then maybe our trip through space and time would be a different one altogether. Maybe a bigger picture would be visible through different eyes. Maybe a different timeline would appear if we used a different calendar. Is that such a big leap?

10 Days of Positivity – Day 10 – Over to you…


I have genuinely got up every day for the last 10 days with a different outlook on things. I struggle to get up midweek mornings normally, especially Mondays, I usually snooze for at least an hour, but have been happily getting up every morning bright and early! I knew my target for each day was to be as positive as I could, regardless of how I felt inside and to try and pass a bit of it on wherever I could.

Since the initial self-doubt started to fade away and I could feel it working, I can honestly say it has become one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I have loved every minute of this week for so many different reasons and I certainly feel a whole lot better about life than I ever usually do on a grey week in early January. Hopefully I managed to do what I set out to and have spread a bit of that among some of you too.

I think it was because it’s been on my own terms, my goal was to be positive and productive in everything, rather than just dragging my arse out of bed and going through the motions. But the truth is, everything we do is on our own terms, maybe if we can make positivity a priority more, then perhaps we can wake up with a zest for life a bit more often.

Thank you so much to everyone who has liked, commented, shared, discussed, read the blog, forwarded things to me and for your amazing messages of support for what I’ve been up to. And thanks to all the amazing people I have met along the way! You have made this 10 days something that I know will genuinely change my outlook on things long term. Maybe not all at once, but I can already feel a difference. My foot and leg have been yelling all week since my run on Monday morning. I clearly thought I was bobby big bollocks (I don’t know where that phrase came from or how big bobby’s big bollocks actually are) but clearly I didn’t work myself into fitness gently and was limping for a few days. Having said that it hasn’t slowed me down as it once might have and I haven’t moaned (much). I completely soaked my foot the other morning while loading my car up and was already running behind schedule, something which would have usually resulted in me feeling annoyed and negative or swearing at the world; instead, I laughed. I didn’t force it, I didn’t have to stop and breathe or count to ten, I just giggled, walked inside, changed my shoes and socks and left. On Thursday, my car started chugging a bit and the engine warning light came on, pretty sure it’s on it’s death bed. That would normally have set me on a negative path, worrying about how much it will cost to fix it or how will I get around. But I just didn’t feel that way. I know these things might seem insignificant to some of you, but these are the sorts of things that would add up and eventually make me feel like the world was against me. If I am conquering these small hurdles with positivity already then I know that overall my state of mind will improve!

While I’m saying thanks to people I need to mention Simon G. This was his original concept, I just grabbed hold of it with both hands because I thought it was awesome and believed it could work. Simon looks after people, it’s what he has always done for as long as I’ve known him. He also knows exactly who he is and how to be honest with the world about it. If we could all be a bit more like Simon then the world would be a better place.

Even though she is terrible at taking credit for all of her incredible attributes I also want to say a special thank you to my gorgeous Anna. She helps me remember everything’s always OK and keeps me from floating off into obscurity or sinking down into the abyss. When I started the week unsure if I should be sharing it with everyone and if it was OK to be as honest with my feelings like this, she reminded me why I was doing it and that it’s alright to show vulnerability sometimes. This 10 days has been as much for my personal improvement as a partner as it has about trying to be a better part of the human race.

So a few positive pledges for the future:-

Make a mix out of those awesome songs people were posting on my wall yesterday, I was so chuffed at how many got posted and how great they all were! Be nice to have them all together so I’ll get to it.

Finishing my online course on gravity which I started over Christmas. It’s free and it’s fascinating. There’s tons of other free courses on there too which you can just do in your own time. Have a look!

Continue with volunteering. I’ll be helping with Film at The Folk Hall on a monthly basis and looking after the Facebook page so keep an eye out and come along if you fancy any of the films! I will also be hoping to work more with any Joseph Rowntree opportunities that come up and I will be sure to keep you posted on those too!

I am going on a coaching course next week to discuss opportunities at work where coaching might help me navigate my career with some support or help me to do the same for someone else.

Reading more! I had just started Stephen Hawkings ‘Brief History of Time’ and need to get back into it. I’ve been rubbish at reading since I left school, mostly because by the time I switch the TV off every day I am almost asleep! It’s never too late though, to push yourself, feed your brain, learn something new that excites you!

While I’m on about reading – I was blown away by an awesome little invention I heard about. It’s like an add-on app that works with kindle type programs and it allows you to choose the speed you are capable of reading at. It takes our eyes longer to cross a page and build the words in our brains than it does to actually comprehend them if they are fired directly at our centre of vision. It means that, with a bit of practice, some people are capable of reading over 4 times the speed of conventional book reading which is about 220 words a minute, and with less eye fatigue. Try it HERE. I can comfortably read at 500 words a minute and uncomfortably do 600, and that’s without practice. How awesome is that? Technology giving us the ability to be more efficient at learning and improving ourselves!

So in a time when we are more connected, intelligent and provided for than ever before, why is ‘bad still stronger than good?’ Why does the human condition see us leaning, more often, towards the glass being half empty? Not for all of us, but a vast majority lean toward the negative. There’s loads of studies and information on Negativity Bias available and it does kind of make sense. We are pre-programmed through evolution to assess risk, and there is a higher risk of harm to us if we don’t respond properly to most negative events, than there is if we don’t respond to positive ones. It seems that we worry and look on the dark side in order to protect ourselves. Perhaps understanding that and taking ownership of it could help us to overcome the fact that those same ‘protective’ emotions can also be harmful to our mental well-being.

I don’t believe we can choose our thoughts and feelings, I think they happen to us subconsciously based on our experiences in life, which is why I believe telling someone who is down to cheer up or telling me to stop over thinking things just doesn’t make sense. I am, therefore I think. But I do know our actions can be chosen and this week I have chosen to take positive action towards the world around me to counter the negative thoughts which normally get me this time of year. I can promise you, it has worked. My week has gone quickly but I feel like I have squeezed the opportunity out of every last minute. It’s left me with a buzz and a renewed sense of gratitude to life that I will always remember when my brain starts looking towards the gloom. Check out THIS TED talk on gratitude.

Live one day at a time

Someone posted a video clip a few months back showing a man trying to explain why we can become weary of the world as opposed to living in the moment, and it hit home. It stated that because we spend so much of the day either consciously or subconsciously worrying about things in our future or regretting the things from our past, we spend very little time focussing on the moment we are living in and enjoying it or using it to better ourselves. He asks why children have so much energy and enthusiasm for life in comparison to adults? We are far bigger, more powerful, intelligent and creative, yet we have lost our zest for the world and our excitement for the moment. He believes because they have yet to learn regret and worry, children simply find enjoyment in living for the now. I like this idea. Because I feel like it’s something I can practice and train myself to improve on. Starting from now!


Care to join me? I’m not going to ask people to do their own 10 days; that was more something I felt I needed to do for me. I’m also not saying that I assume people aren’t positive, I know so many of you are! I’m just saying, let’s go above and beyond and take people by surprise, let’s let our guard down and be honest about how we feel, good or bad, then let people cross that threshold between our online or projected personality and who we really are and aspire to be. We all need each other to make our journey more fulfilling and exciting, so let’s be there for each other with bells on. It might have been small but I know I’ve made a positive difference on my world and if we all did that as often as we could, how awesome could life be?

Just believe in yourself!



10 Days of Positivity – Day 9 – Elevator Music


I’m sure I can speak for most of us when I say that music has a powerful effect on us. Most of us, at some point, have felt like we can’t be bothered going out but then a great tune comes on and suddenly, something changes and we’re up for it. You probably also know that feeling where you’re in an average mood, but then Dre comes on and suddenly you become a cold ass pimp. It also brings emotion to movies and makes them infinitely better, have a look at the two clips from Star Wars below, without music it’s just awkward!



Music can and does change our mood if we let it and can enhance our lives. It has gotten me through some dark times and elevated me when I needed it to (yes I know, that must be all of the time due to my size, jeez, let it go…)

A wise man tells me that Sundays are made for music so I’m spending a day on it today! I’ve asked for Facebook friends to post their happy songs on my wall to see what tunes are important to them and it’s been so good listening to so many awesome songs! I am in SUCH a great mood right now so thank you to all those who have posted!

I’m fortunate to have lots of  friends who DJ so I’m always surrounded by great music and it’s given me a chance to learn a bit and have a go myself. I have posted a few of my mixes below. I’m still a beginner so don’t expect anything too professional, they are a bit rough, but they were fun to do and I hope you like them!

First and foremost, the first mix I did of some of my favourite songs.

Second. A mix I did for my friend Simon G’s birthday. As he has made hundreds of mixes for people over the years I thought it was about time someone made one for him of his favourite tunes. It just so happens that they are all brilliant, uplifting songs too!

I’ve also put together a mix of the most positive songs I know, a fitting soundtrack for my 10 days of positivity. Listen to this when you need reminding how amazing the world is!




10 Days of Positivity – Day 8 – Life is like a camera

So I’ve been having a few memory issues, nothing serious and my memory has never been particularly good but since noticing this more recently, I have taken even more care to try and get a photo of the great things that happen around me, just in case I might go and forget them! I think it’s so cool how cameras use a method similar to our own eyes (LOOK!) and capture photographs that can be like extensions to our memory.

To help me be mindful and thankful for the people and experiences around me, I am devoting today to photographs!

To try and make the most of my photos, I set folders of them as my screen saver. It helps that my computer is plugged into my TV so I often have photos cycling through. Most TVs nowadays have a USB slot so even if you don’t have your computer plugged in, you can fill a USB up with your photos and do the same. It is a nice way to make sure the photos we go to the effort of taking get the enjoyment they deserve, instead of just sitting on a hard drive as they so often do!

I have also started making little videos of some of my photos. Here’s one of family times over Christmas and Boxing day!

And of the fun times bringing in the New Year at the Freeman’s!

I enjoyed doing them so much I went back through the amazing year I have had and included some of the best bits which make me feel lucky to be alive surrounded by the amazing, creative and legendary people I am!

I know this is all very personal to me but I just wanted to show people how it’s a nice way to make use of photos! All you need is Windows Movie Maker and it’s dead simple! I would love to see some of your videos! Why not give it a go?!

Photo’s are pretty awesome now, but I grew up in a time when they weren’t so convenient. 1 reel of 25 photos cost a fair few quid to get developed, you had to wait a few days to get them back and that was just for the little tiny prints. So not only did you have to remember your camera, which was a big ugly bulky thing anyway, but you also had to be ready for the moments that were worthy, then wait for the right second to take just one snap and hope it was a good one. Suffice to say I have hundreds of shit, badly focussed photos in my loft now gathering dust.

Now, how about a look at the biggest space photo ever taken? Some German astronomers took a 46 billion pixel photo of our galaxy. It’s 146 gigabytes and is the biggest ever photo of the Milky Way! You can click here for a tool that lets you scan around it and zoom in!

Or the Blue Marble photo. Imagine being out there and knowing that everyone in the world is being captured in your photo!


Here is a collection of 100 non photo-shopped photos and pretty much all of them are breath taking!

How awesome is it that a majority of us now have a camera in our pocket which is capable of taking great photos? And if they aren’t great, they can be instantly deleted without cost to us and then years worth of them can all be stored in this tiny organised electronic box (Here’s some interesting info about our current levels of data storage). This gives us a much better chance to enhance our memories than ever before and let’s us keep our life altering moments safe forever, well providing you back them up!

I think it’s important to mention that while taking photos of the things we do is fun, it is changing us and having that technology in our pockets can make it tempting to constantly feel like we should be using it. Prince banned cameras and phones from his last concert and, being vertically challenged, it was really nice to have a clear view for once! As much as I love to take loads of photos I am also trying to keep reminding myself to enjoy the moment for what it is too so that I don’t just see life through a screen! Check this article on how selfie culture is changing our lives.

10 Days of Positivity – Day 7 – Facebook Stalking

Social media is amazing. It allows us all to keep in touch regardless of distance and creates a perfectly organised online chronology of certain parts of our lives that we can forever look back on. But like with any life altering development in technology, it creates its own, brand new problems. And perhaps worse, it can make us lazy at properly communicating with each other.  Clicking like on someone’s post, or posting a quick – ‘sorry to hear that’ on someone’s bad news, is easy enough to do. But it lacks meaningfulness. That’s not a fair statement is it? It may or may not lack meaningfulness and it’s impossible to tell either way. A bit like a ‘How are you?’, ‘I’m fine, thanks’ type of exchange. A pleasantry swap where neither party is any closer to understanding each other’s true feelings. We no longer need to be in physical touch to know what is going on with someone so we are able to sacrifice that direct contact, but how can we be sure they are ok without looking them in the eye?

Take a look at this video showing how powerful eye contact can be, stick with it, it gets good after a few minutes!

Facebook launched in February 2004 and I started using it in 2007, 9 years ago, and even though I do make great use of it, I’m still, for the most part, able to step back and see it for what it is. But it’s been around so long now that 9 year old children are in a world where Facebook has always existed. Add 7 or 8 years on for the years before you understand what it is and how it works and that means that 17 or 18 year old young adults now live in a world where social media has always been around and has likely played a large part in their lives. Their parents are likely to be on it, all their friends will undoubtedly be on it, it’s a part of who they are. By December 2014 there was 1.39 billion users of Facebook. The world population is estimated at 7 billion so well over a seventh of our planet is on Facebook. Now and again an invention comes along and changes things, for better or worse, it becomes part of life and we have to accept it or be in the extreme minority who don’t.

But is it a true reflection of who we are? For most of us we put our best bits on there. Uploading photos from the fun things we have done and posting jokes or silliness on each other’s walls, we use it to arrange events and start group messages. And in doing so it paints this picture that, for most of us, everything is ok!

My relationship with Facebook has been a weird one over the years. When I have been through tough times in the past I have tended to just deactivate my account for a while. I opted for this rather than using it to vent my frustrations or be honest about any pain I was feeling. I think deleting it was the easier option for me, mostly because I felt like I didn’t want to see everyone else having a great time while I wasn’t. I remember starting to resent other people’s happiness a bit and it just added to my feelings at the opposite end of the spectrum. Plus I didn’t want to be invited to things and have to click ‘Not going’ or feel like I should be clicking ‘like’ on nice things when I didn’t actually like anything at all, it was enough for me to just say ‘I’m out’ and leave. It never lasted for long though and I always reactivated soon because the truth is that it is incredibly useful and I eventually did feel I was missing out by not being on it.

Some people do opt for using it to vent, share problems or ask people for help. This lets others know there’s an issue and gives them chance to offer advice, which could lead to a solution. Then there’s certain posts which make finding a solution much harder, let’s just say for example, ‘you really know who your friends are’. These are aimed at someone in particular, but to the casual passer-by, the peeker over the (Facebook) wall, they lose their underlying meaning because we have no context, there’s no direct emotion in it for us, so we just see negativity directed out at the world. Please, if you are reading this and thinking that my raising this is aimed at you then please try to see the irony of that fact and remember that I am not trying to single you out, I am just trying to make sense of a modern day miscommunication. When one of these anonymous posts addresses a topic such as friendship breakdown toward someone who is then not directly addressed it can have negative effects on the reader. This might well have nothing to do with me, yet due to the way my brain functions, I read it and immediately can only use the context I have to hand which is my own, and ask myself, ‘Well I haven’t been in touch lately, do they mean me? Am I a good friend? Even if they don’t mean me, should I have been in touch? Is it too late?’ And so on. Now I know some of us over think things more than others, but whether you scroll past this and don’t think twice about it, unfollow the person’s posts, take it personally, or if indeed you are the unnamed subject of the post, surely this cannot be considered a productive exchange between human beings? There is a person at the other end of the post with a problem who has felt the need to reach out. Is the very fact that things are being shared on Facebook to the anonymous world, instead of confiding in trusted friends, a separate and perhaps more concerning issue in itself?

Inner demon

It can be such an anonymous, pre-edited world online if we allow it to be and considering how connected we all technically are, we can be so disconnected from who we want to be and how we view each other. Facebook has generated new types of self-esteem and loneliness issues that simply didn’t exist 30 years ago. See this link for more info.

Is it surprising that with so many Facebook friends, people still feel lonely.

Now I am aware that I am reaching out to all of you via social media and using an online platform to do so. I acknowledge that I myself am painting a picture of who I want to be and sharing it with the world and this is why I felt it important to share some of my negative feelings with you as well. Even though this is an attempt to spread overall positivity, in order to genuinely do so and actually connect, I believe that we really need to be able to experience the full cross section of a person and this is even more important in a virtual environment.

So today I wanted to try and turn a negative use of Facebook on it’s head by ‘Facebook stalking’ for good!  No matter how good we get at typing, actions will always speak louder than words, so today I have been looking out for people on Facebook who appeared to need something positive. I’m restricted to what’s on my news feed and I’m not sure exactly how Facebook decides what I see and don’t see but I’ve wanted to give this a go for a while. Because I know how hard it can be to admit when you’re down, I also put a status out asking if people would assist me by passing on the details of anyone who they believed might need a pick me up. Whether it be in the literal sense with a lift somewhere or maybe help with the shopping; or by sending them a little something through the post to brighten up their day.  I’ll be honest I wasn’t sure how it would work and it turns out I didn’t have any requests for visits or physical help. That’s ok though, I have had quite a few names and addresses sent to me and have spent this aft getting my little gifts ready to post out. Hopefully they will brighten up someone’s day!

I didn’t really have a clear idea of how today was going play out or how this blog entry was going to go when I started it so apologies that it’s not been all that positive in the end! I guess what I’m trying to say is that regardless of how people may come across online, positive or negative, we are all so much more complex than the simple and often glammed up version we present ourselves as online and we should try to reach beyond that superficial connection whenever we can, especially when we see someone we care for trying to reach out.

10 Days of Positivity – Day 6 – Volunteering

Today has been another amazing day. I have been lucky enough to meet loads of really incredible people again! This morning I paid a visit to one of York’s food bank warehouses. I called them yesterday to find out what they needed more of and to see if they minded me coming to see them rather than leaving my donation at a supermarket. (It turns out it’s not so much food but things like toiletries they often get short of!) So while I was at Aldi yesterday I got a few extra bits and bobs for them. My whole shop cost me about 60 quid and this included my own stuff too. I can’t have spent more than 40 quid on top of my shopping but managed to get 4 extra crammed bags full of toiletries and food! Money goes so far in Aldi! The people working at the local bank in New Earswick are all volunteers who were spending their morning sorting through mountains of donations from people and businesses and were all really chatty and happy to be doing an amazing job. They were too shy to pose for a photo but were happy for me to take one of the huge pile of stock they had! It’s lovely to see so many people trying to help those in need.

Food bank

To find out more about it, click HERE!

I know I am really lucky to have the life I do. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by so many amazing friends and family who do awesome stuff all the time. It’s hard to imagine life without them, even worse, if it was just me I’d drive myself even more bonkers than I already do! But I’ve been spending so much time being insanely busy trying to do everything that it had started getting me run down and a bit forgetful, so I’ve been trying to make fewer plans and just relax a bit more. In doing so, however, it’s reminded me that there’s people out there who can’t do a great deal even if they wanted to because they don’t have the money or mobility, or sometimes the motivation to. I wanted to start giving a bit of my spare time, on a regular basis, to people who could really use it so I started looking for something close to home which I could get involved with.

I live round the corner from Rowntree’s chocolate factory. Joseph Rowntree, as well as making Rowntree’s one of the biggest confectioners in the world before Nestle bought it, was also a philanthropist who did a huge amount to improve the quality of life for his staff, including building quality housing and schools near his factory. 90 years after his death and the foundation and trust which he started now offer a huge range of care, support, retirement homes and social housing across Yorkshire and the North East and are dedicated to overcoming social problems, just as Joseph Rowntree was himself. Find out more about this amazing Yorkie here.

A 5 minute walk from my house is a Joseph Rowntree development called New Earswick, where there are lots of elderly residents. There is a local group who arrange events out of the Folk Hall there including a café for local residents called NELLI (New Earswick Less Lonely Initiative). NELLI was set up after a research project into loneliness by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Here’s the Age UK video which follows on from the famous John Lewis Christmas advert. Warning – It is a tear jerker!

A year ago this group set up a Community Cinema in the local Folk Hall called NELLIvision which started as a great way for local residents to get together, meet, chat and enjoy movies in their own community. There is already a great team working on this, with one incredible and inspiring lady in particular devoting a huge amount of her time to making it work. It turns out they have been in need of a volunteer to get involved with the technical side and to help out with running screenings and acquiring licenses and I am proud to say they have welcomed me into their team!

I genuinely can’t believe I didn’t know this existed so close to home. I love movies, I love people (especially the oldies) and I’ve been in need of something positive that I can really get my teeth into, so this couldn’t have come at a better time for me, or for them, it would seem. It just shows that sometimes the right thing is literally round the corner, you just have to make the time and go look for it. Our next job, to ensure longevity of the project, is to get more people through the door on a regular basis.  We are looking to appeal to a wider audience and hopefully attract people from further afield too. With a giant screen, amazing projector, welcoming bar and extremely cheap prices, I’m hoping that won’t be too difficult. As of January we have changed our name to ‘Film at the Folk Hall’ in order to try and steer away from it being for one particular group of people – If you haven’t already, then it would be great if you could give our Facebook group a ‘like’ or a share so you can keep up with our screenings. If any take your fancy then please come along and show your support – Our website is here.

For the cinema’s first birthday they screened the new Cinderella movie and so many families came along, it was amazing! My beautiful girlfriend, Anna, came dressed as Cinderella and brought presents for all the kids and made the day even more spectacular for everyone. She makes me feel like I can do anything and is a huge inspiration for me!

Getting involved with Film at the Folk Hall has introduced me to some of the awesome staff from Joseph Rowntree. They have just opened a community space called ‘The Open Shop’ in an old post office in the village and their launch night was tonight! They are going to be running a ‘trade school’ there and have been scouring the City for people to come in and run a class on something they enjoy, they don’t have to be an expert, just able to share their knowledge or skills in return for something similar. When I first saw the shop it was just a dusty, empty run down room but by networking with local people and businesses they have turned it into a really lovely little space, ready to fill with the buzz of community spirit and a shared vision of creating something special together.

I have offered to run a beginners DJ class for some of the younger people in the area. Now, I am very much a beginner myself (more on that later in the week!) but I know enough to teach some young people the basics and I’m excited to spend an evening doing something different in my community! Tonight I went for a first meeting at the space to chat to the organisers and other teachers about their classes! I took along some speakers and my amp to lend them so they can plug their phones / iPods in and have music during the sessions. We all did a sort of ‘speed dating’ thing where we had a few minutes chatting to each of the people so we could learn about how we all got involved and what we are each offering. Again, I’ve been blown away by how many people just want to be involved. There are so many people helping this project to get off the ground and they have already filled up 70 sessions of different things including art workshops, furniture repair, storytelling, cookery and so much more! We will definitely be attending lots of them! If this three month trial works then they will be hopefully be looking for a more permanent spot and to roll the project out across their communities!

For further info, have a look at their lovely website – Here!

10 Days of Positivity – Day 5 – Helping Hand

This 10 days has been about trying to step back and look at my life and ask what’s missing. I know for sure, I am rich in a lot of ways, but I rarely pay anything back. I’m not balancing my books properly. If our time on this planet is about progress and productivity and improvement for future generations then how can I say I have added to any of that? What have I done that I can honestly say I am proud of myself for or where have I helped make someone else’s life better? I think that’s what I’ve been lacking. I know I am capable of more but I constantly question things like, am I in the right job? How do I move forward? Am I getting stuck in a rut? I feel like I race through life at a million miles an hour but I don’t balance my work and social life out with any food for the soul, so it’s no wonder I’m still hungry. So today was about me starting to give a bit back and lend a helping hand where it’s needed.

As most of you will know, York was hit pretty badly by flooding over Christmas. Hundreds of properties and businesses were affected across the City in parts that don’t usually flood, and due to it being Boxing Day and people being away with families etc, very few were prepared for it. At the peak of the flood there was 30 tonnes of water a second flowing down the river Foss with heights over 4 metres above normal levels and people were trapped inside or unable to get in to protect their possessions. Following this, there were also reports of people looting and rogue traders taking advantage of people.

Here’s some drone footage of what some of the areas looked like.

One thing that has shone through this whole crisis though, is the overwhelming amount of people who want to help and are willing to come and give their time and resources to assist. Electricians and plumbers giving free safety checks, volunteers wading into people’s homes to help salvage belongings and people opening up their doors to victims who had nowhere to go. Everyone has really been pulling together where they can. This morning I went along to volunteer at the Guildhall. City of York Council had staff and volunteers organising and handing out food parcels and cleaning products for victims, including a huge donation from Nestle of coffee, chocolate, water etc. It’s still early days though, I spoke to one couple with an 8 month old baby who said it could still be up to 6 months before they can move home and are on a friends couch until their insurance sorts a flat out for them. Even though times must be so hard for them right now they were upbeat and chatty and even said they felt awkward about asking for a hand out. It reminded me of an interesting article I read on – The Neglected art of receiving.

Iain Dunn and I also took some bits and bobs down to a food trailer on Huntington Road today and I met two amazing ladies there. Huntington Road, not far from where I live, was hit pretty badly and work will be ongoing in the area for some time so there’s lots of residents, volunteers and workmen out on the street. These two kind souls decided it would be nice if someone was there to make drinks for people in need. Now dubbed Fossy’s Flossy’s (due to being right next to the river Foss!) these two girls, one a hairdresser and the other a carer, have gone from strength to strength. They started off with a small gas camping stove, making cups of tea and coffee as best they could. People obviously saw them struggle in the cold and rain trying to do a good deed with the tools they had. Since then they have had a company loan them a trailer, an electrician wire up a generator so they have lights and heat and they told me how people now pass by and honk their horn and hand them bags of fresh bacon, burgers and home baked goods for them to cook and give out. All this with jobs of their own to go to. They do it with huge smiles on their faces just because they enjoy helping people. I salute you, Fossy’s Flossy’s! I had a great time working with some awesome volunteers today (and of course Iain!)

Today was also my first time giving blood. The reason it was my first time is because I am a total wuss when it comes to needles! The thought of them has always made me shiver. But to be honest so has the thought of getting up at 0630 for a run or putting my feelings on the internet for others to see, but this week is about getting shit done so it seemed like the right time to stop making excuses and do it.  Stevie P was sending words of encouragement to me about 1 little prick today, at the same time as getting over a hundred per second into his arm for his new work of art!

Totally glad I went though. Anthea, the nurse looking after me today was a total pro and was happy to chat and explain everything to me. She helped me work out that what bothers me most is the size of the tiny vein and the size of the needle that has to go in but not through it, and then sit in there while an eighth of my blood drains out of me. And all that is in the hands of someone I don’t know. It’s still freaking me out thinking about it now and it was 6 hours ago! As my sister kindly reminded me though, she just gave birth to my 8lbs 12oz nephew Lucas, with no pain relief, clearly I needed to man up. Especially once I found out I had O negative blood type, which is rare and in an emergency transfusion, can be given to anyone.

Blood has always fascinated me, it’s like our equivalent of fuel except we can make more of it ourselves if we need to and we just charge it up every time we breathe. Imagine if we could mimic that in our cars. It’s the most precious liquid we will ever know and we make it for free. To carry it around our bodies we have around 60,000 miles of blood vessels. Sorry but what?! That’s more than twice round the world… That’s like a quarter of the way to the moon! I mean bloody hell (sorry!) We are complex beings and so when something goes wrong, we need donations to fix us. I might need some one day and so it’s only fair I donate now while I am fit, healthy and have the chance.

Click here to register and book an appointment, it’s really easy!

To finish off here’s a nice video of some very loving hearts which made me smile!

10 Days of Positivity – Day 4 – Complimentary Gift

After having a really good experience in the supermarket a couple of months back, I noted the names of the two staff I had got chatting as they had been really helpful and positive and so I notified customer services. They seemed surprised that I had taken the time to say thank you and asked if I would fill in a compliment form. While I did I was told it doesn’t happen that often and the two members of staff would now be invited to a special lunch for staff who go the extra mile for their customer. It’s awesome that the company run this scheme to give team members incentives like this, but it was quite sad how infrequently the customers give credit where it’s due. The customer experience works both ways too, I am usually most impressed by service when I have been a good customer and joked with someone or asked lots of questions. People become more helpful and happy to give advice and I walk away glad to have had the exchange, but I haven’t always been good enough at giving proper compliments about this sort of thing.

It felt good knowing those two helpful people, who put effort into doing their job well, now get much deserved praise and are reminded that every now and again being positive pays off. It cost me nothing but 2 minutes of my time and I genuinely had been chuffed with the service.

I work in a job where credit or thanks from customers is very rare, and that’s ok, that’s the nature of my job and luckily my colleagues and management let each other know when we are doing something right and that’s just about enough. But some people work in jobs where they don’t get the credit they deserve from anyone or the chance to chat and be praised on their awesomeness. Today and yesterday has been about putting that right!

It’s not just service providers though, I’ve realised that lately I’m having less meaningful interaction with strangers in general than I used to and I know it’s down to my phone. It’s often joked about how, in London on the tube etc. people ignore each other and walk around with their heads down, but it seems to be happening everywhere now. I have found myself getting more and more guilty of this. Don’t get me wrong, I love technology, I think Facebook is an amazing tool and I love having a question in my head and being able to find informative articles to provide me with an answer in seconds. There’s no doubt our smart phones are helping us progress at connecting to each other and to the information we need. I sometimes even congratulate myself about my time management skills when, between leaving the car and getting to work, I have checked my Facebook, WhatsApp and done all my personal emails and started on some work ones; but in that same time I have also blankly passed York Minster, walked over the river and avoided eye contact and pleasantries with hundreds of people. I’ve missed out.

Here’s a link with an interesting insight to this modern issue –

Do those extra few seconds sorting things out on my journey to work actually make a huge difference to my day or would they be better spent admiring and connecting to the people and world around me before I get into the office? I know this week has been about connecting with people using this very same technology but I know I need to use it responsibly for my own wellbeing too. From now on, I am going to try and be a bit more mindful of the world around me and remember its ok to talk to strangers. Ok, not a great piece of advice for kids, but definitely one for the grown-ups! Check out this funny video about kids talking to strangers, via adults:

So after my experiences in Asda and my own workplace and having realised my connection to technology could be limiting my connection to the world, I’ve been spending some time complimenting people for the good that I see in them; from workers to passers by, buskers to friends and even a shop for their punny name and great decor! Everyone I see doing something right, or being good to me or other people has got either a supersized high 5 and / or one of my cards and some ‘Good work!’ stickers! Thanks to Simon G for the unexpected help yesterday and my girlfriend Anna for taking some cards into work for her hard working colleagues. I went into work today and took some cakes in for my tirelessly brilliant colleagues, as they most definitely deserve a treat!

Now I am fully aware that this is all a tad cheesy, but everyone so far has seemed happy to be complimented on their good work and perhaps once they read their card will be inspired to give away a sticker or pass on some kind words to someone else for their efforts.

This is a nice link which shows people’s reaction to being told they are beautiful. It’s an amazing reminder of the power of how much people can value an opinion, even from a stranger and it can make them feel amazing.

This isn’t just about this week either, this is a pledge to be better at reminding those who deserve it ‘you are doing great’! Whether the effect lasts for 2 minutes, 2 hours or 2 days, I’m not sure it matters.  I know I have made some people feel better today and that knowledge is genuinely making me feel awesome too. We all have the power to make someone’s day. Care to join me..?